Allergy-Friendly Christmas Feast from the Middle East

A Three-Course Meal Free of All Major Allergens

Hummus mediterranean style
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When cooking for multiple food allergies, sometimes the easiest path is to seek out cuisines that don’t use a lot of major allergens. Middle Eastern food fits the bill.

Middle Eastern food is easily adapted to an allergy diet because it doesn’t rely on large quantities of dairy, eggs, or soy, and can be easily adapted to be free of nuts, wheat, and gluten as well. As an added bonus, Middle Eastern food is delicious and heart-healthy.

This Middle Eastern holiday feast makes a big impact without hours spent in the kitchen. All of the recipes I list below are free of the "big eight" allergens: dairy, soy, nuts, peanuts, eggs, wheat/gluten, fish, and shellfish.

Mezze (Appetizer Course) Recipes

Middle Eastern meals typically begin with mezze – an appetizer course of multiple small dishes. Serve these foods with safe pita bread for dipping. (Gluten-free pita or flatbread is available at some grocery stores, or can be ordered online.)

Gather around the table, enjoy a glass of wine, and nibble on these goodies while the main meal finishes cooking.

  • Roasted Pumpkin Seeds – Pumpkin may seem very American, but roasted pumpkin seeds are also a traditional mezze served in Armenia, where pumpkin is a common vegetable in many dishes.
  • Olives – Head to your local deli or grocery store and choose a selection of gourmet olives. My favorites are oil-cured black olives and anything with preserved lemon.
  • Stuffed Grape Leaves with Rice and Herbs (Dolmas) – Omit the pine nuts from this recipe for an allergy-friendly version.
  • Hummus – Most grocery store stock a variety of pre-made hummus flavors, but beware of hidden allergens or possible cross-contamination. You can whip up this recipe in just a few minutes.
  • Vegetables – Red and green raw veggies for dipping add to the festive look of your table.

Main Meal Recipes

The main meal usually consists of a meat dish, a grain pilaf, and one or more salads. I have chosen a traditional lamb stew instead of grilled meat, since it is too cold to stand out by a grill at Christmas in many parts of the country. If you live in a more temperate climate, chicken or lamb kebabs would substitute nicely.

  • Armenian Lamb Stew – This traditional stew is usually served over rice or bulgur pilaf.
  • Simple Rice Pilaf – A quick and easy recipe for rice pilaf.
  • Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad – The bright flavors of garlic and parsley bring a little bit of spring to your winter table.
  • Festive Satsuma and Pomegranate Salad – Glowing oranges and pomegranate seeds with honey and mint make a festive holiday salad that almost doubles as dessert.

Dessert Recipes

Many Middle Eastern desserts are made from nuts or nut pastes. These traditional desserts are allergy-friendly. Serve all three desserts together for a dessert mezze.

  • Lukum– Turkish delight, of Narnia fame, is surprisingly free of major allergens.
  • Stuffed Dates – Easy to prepare, these treats make excellent gifts and well as a delicious ending to your meal.
  • Dried Apricots - Drizzle honey or rosewater over dried apricots for a simple yet exotic treat.

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